The discount airfare revolution has created a conundrum over the various fees that airlines in the United States charge to maximize their profits, and travel industry executives are turning the screws on their lobbying efforts to ensure that their companies are able to charge such fees at will.
According to a recent report published by the Washington Examiner, a newspaper covering the political beat in the District of Columbia, the latest fee being fought in Congress is one that few passengers are aware of. The passenger facility charge is an automatic fee that is appended by default to every airline ticket issued in the U.S. At this time, this fee has a ceiling of $4.50; however, the airline industry has been pushing to raise this amount to $8.50 by sneaking a provision inside a bill that is being debated by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The two lobbying groups battling over the passenger facility charge are the U.S. Travel Association and Airlines for America; the latter is opposed to increasing the cap while the former is in favor of it.
Airlines for America has stated that passengers are already overburdened by too many fees; this is correct insofar as the various additional charges created by discount tickets, which have fees for everything from checked luggage to seat selection. It has gotten to the point that discount airfare is only affordable for passengers who fly with just an overnight bag and who will not consume beverages or meals aboard the airplane.
The U.S. Travel Association maintains that the passenger facility charge funds improvements to airport facilities and overall security. If Congress sides with this industry group, air travelers will pay an additional $2.6 billion per year to airlines. As the situation stands, the U.S. Travel Association has received substantial support in the form of 140 letters from various business entities, most of them airlines, which are in favor of raising the cap on this particular charge.
To a certain extent, the U.S. Travel Association is using a controversial observation made by President Donald Trump while on the campaign trail last year. Trump suggested that the American airport infrastructure has fallen into disrepair, and he mentioned La Guardia Airport in New York as an example. An ambitious infrastructure package was promised by Trump at the time; nonetheless, there has been little indication that such a package is in the works, much to the dismay of prospective contractors.